- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Whitehurst works

The DMJM Harris Report to D.C. Department of Transportation on the Whitehurst Freeway deconstruction is some 60 pages long and technically sophisticated, full of data and computer print-outs, all built around a complex analytical model for evaluating 22 alternative scenarios using 21 separate criteria. The study appears to have considered all the options and, in the end, it presents the five “best performing” alternatives, all of which call for deconstructing the Whitehurst. The tone of the report is that the study has settled whether the Whitehurst should or should not be deconstructed — it is only a question of how best to do it.

Traffic is the key and the report is tough going for a lay reader but a careful reading reveals a serious “disconnect”; the Report builds the case for deconstruction by ignoring most of its own findings about the impact the loss of the Whitehurst would have on future traffic flows. As an objective “scientific” analysis, the report is a sham. It avoids saying what its own numbers show: Deconstructing the Whitehurst would have seriously negative impacts on traffic in Washington.

The study collected 2005 baseline data on vehicular flows and made projections of these flows to 2030. These vehicle projections should be the heart of the report’s traffic impact assessment but they are not mentioned in the text. Appendix B does present maps showing projected flows under various alternatives but the accompanying tables are so detailed as to be unintelligible and there is no discussion of the numbers. But, with a little digging, these data do lead to a conclusion exactly opposite to that reached by the text of the report itself: with the Whitehurst gone traffic congestion will be worse everywhere in the impacted area.

The Whitehurst is the link to downtown Washington for three major west-east suburban arteries: McArthur Blvd (from Potomac, Cabin John and Glen Echo); Clara Barton Parkway-Canal Road (from McLean, Annandale and Great Falls in Virginia via Chain Bridge and Bethesda and other Maryland suburbs); and Foxhall Road (Spring Valley, University Heights and Palisades) all feed into Canal Road through a traffic light at Canal and Foxhall where some 3,000 east-bound cars stream in the morning, according to the 2005 traffic survey. Some 2,000 turn onto the Whitehurst just before the Key Bridge and the other 1,000 go on to M St. For the Whitehurst traffic the next traffic light is met at the end of the Freeway, just before the tunnel under Washington Circle if one is continuing on to K St. But, if one turns right onto the parkway just before the end of the Whitehurst, this is an unobstructed route to E St., the State Deptartment and other government buildings or to Constitution Avenue, Independence Avenue and the lower Mall. The evening rush hour traffic roughly reverses this flow as 2,000 cars head westward on the Whitehurst.

If the Whitehurst is removed then this traffic (2,000 AM rush-hour east-bound cars, 2,000 PM rush-hour west-bound cars and 42,000 cars per day in both directions) will no longer be able to bypass Georgetown but must instead pass through it somehow. The alternatives presented by the report aim to shunt the bulk of the present Whitehurst traffic, some 1,500 cars, through Georgetown on a newly-widened K St. via new access ramps from Canal Road and the Potomac Parkway. K Street will become a congested arterial route with stop-lights at every intersection, considerable pedestrian crossing to the business and commercial facilities and will be less attractive to through traffic. Many motorists will seek other routes and the reports own projections (Appendix B) show some 200 of the Whitehurst stream spilling over on to M Street with the remaining 300 seeking downtown access further north on Reservoir Road to Q and P Streets.

Given the density of new multi-story structures on K Street’s northern edge, no real “widening ” of K Street seems possible. Increasing travel lanes on K Street will almost certainly be at the expense of the present on-street parking lanes. which amount to some two hundred and fifty spaces, counting both angled and parallel. These are particularly concentrated at the Key Bridge-Canal Road end, precisely where the new ramps would be built after deconstruction. The new NPS riverside park will shortly eliminate some 250 commercial parking spaces and the implications of losing a total of 500 parking spaces for congestion in Georgetown should give pause. On this issue the report is silent

With this picture of the post-deconstruction traffic situation, how can the report conclude, as it does, that: “traffic will be improved on M Street during congested periods”; that “pedestrian access to the riverfront will be improved;” or that: “vehicular access to Georgetown businesses will be improved.”? The inescapable reality is that the Whitehurst “works” for traffic and the best that can be said for any of the deconstruction alternatives is that they may not make traffic too much worse, But, the Whitehurst Report ignores its own data and does not really come to grips with the traffic issue.

(This essay is drawn from a longer more detailed analysis of the Whitehurst Deconstruction Report, copies of which are available at the Web site: SavetheWhitehurst.org )


Professor of economics (Emeritus)

Pennsylvania State University



Paul Walkowski’s well-written letter “War critics do harm morale” (Saturday) accurately expresses the views of the majority of Americans.

The politicians are betraying our troops once again, and not just the troops, but the entire country. The betrayal started with the relentless four-year attack against President Bush by the leftist news media and politicians. Those attacks, including speeches on foreign soil by our own senators and former presidents denigrating Mr. Bush and the United States, have weakened him in his conduct of foreign affairs and given hope to our terrorist foes that eventually the anti-America fifth column will prevail again.



Ulterior motives

A few years ago, in his review of the book “The Last of the Black Emperors: The Hollow Comeback of Marion Barry in a New Age of Black Leaders,” Washington Times Editor in Chief Wesley Pruden affirmed that the former D.C. mayor “cheated himself, his city, and all the rest of us.” Now readers are to believe that the same man is a paragon of wisdom when it comes to dealing with gun violence in the District (“Repeal D.C.’s gun law,” Editorial, Friday).

Mr. Barry is the only member of the D.C. Council who is calling for a suspension of the city’s handgun ban. Council members Kwame Brown, Jim Graham and Tommy Wells originally co-sponsored Mr. Barry’s legislation because it proposed tough new penalties for the crime of possessing an unregistered weapon in the District, but when it later became clear that Mr. Barry also was calling for a ban hiatus, they withdrew their support.

As our current mayor, Adrian M. Fenty, correctly has pointed out, the District is flooded with illegal guns because of lax federal and state laws that allow firearms traffickers to bring their products across our borders en masse. A convicted felon still can buy a trunkful of handguns and assault weapons at a gun show in Virginia without undergoing a background check and be in the District in a matter of minutes to resell them. All told, a whopping 97 percent of the District’s crime guns are brought in illegally from outside the city.

Mr. Barry’s bill would not prevent a single one of these illegal guns from crossing our city’s borders. In addition, his legislation would send a questionable message to area criminals by legitimizing the activity of those who already have violated our city’s public safety laws.

Mr. Fenty is standing with 153 other mayors in the Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition to call for stronger federal and state gun laws. Their idea is to get tough on crime, and if they are successful in their efforts on Capitol Hill, firearms trafficking in this country will no longer be a low-risk, high-reward enterprise. D.C. residents who can see through the gun lobby’s ulterior motives in wanting to put more guns on our streets should get squarely behind Mr. Fenty’s efforts.



D.C. Million Mom March


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